Why Investing in PR Makes Sense for Startups

Some PR firms shy away from working with startups. Why? They see these young, blossoming companies as needy, inexperienced newbies lacking a proper marketing budget. But that’s not the way we see it. Working with startups brings raw energy, inspiration and fresh perspectives to the table. And that’s why Dittoe PR has had a love affair with startups that spans more than a decade.

As the director of business development for one of the country’s best high-tech PR firms, I get to meet a lot of cool startups (check out Quipol, uFlavor and Musical DNA). Now, it’s fair to say that most startups (at least the ones that I have had the pleasure of meeting) have limited budgets for marketing. My advice? Rather than trying to do everything right off the cuff, invest in one form of marketing and do it well.  Here is why I believe, that for startups, PR should be the single-line item in their marketing budget for 2012.

Creates brand awareness. PR is the quickest way to share your brand’s story with the masses. Consumers look to the media for insight on the latest and greatest.  Receiving editorial coverage on TechCrunch, Mashable, Rolling Stone, The New York Times or WIRED can catapult your brand to a whole new level.

Builds authority in search. It’s no secret that a successful PR campaign can boost your SEO. That’s why I asked our partner Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media, author of “Corporate Blogging for Dummies” and founder of the Marketing Tech Blog, for his thoughts on the subject.

“Much of the Internet, including what you see in search results and promoted socially is found and ranked based on authority. In search, authority is measured in backlinks from authority sites.  In social, the voice is amplified further based on the authority of the person talking about it. Since authority isn’t something that a startup has, it’s something they have to acquire. While it is possible for a startup to build authority without help, it takes months to see any gainful results. This is crucial to the health of a startup. The reason why we push a public relations strategy with all of our startup clients is because they’re able to jumpstart their authority online by actively getting in front of influencers. PR also trickles down, providing great backlinks in search results and tons of attention socially. Public relations should be a foundation for all startups. In other words, our startup clients are able to get to market faster and get greater results quicker with a PR strategy than without.”

Saves valuable time. When you’re at the helm of a startup, you’re wearing a hundred different hats.  When you’re responsible for everything from coding to customer retention strategies, chances are PR will slip to the bottom of your endless to do list.  When you hire a PR agency, you’ll have a dedicated person or team devoted to PR responsibilities.

“As any entrepreneur who has dabbled in PR knows, it’s incredibly time-consuming to research the appropriate media outlets for their startup, find the right contacts at each media outlet, develop attention-getting pitches, write press releases and follow up with writers to see coverage through,” says Lauren Sanders, partner and vice president of account services at Dittoe PR.  “With a PR agency, you’re able to take a very time-consuming role off your plate and focus on other areas of the business that need your attention.

Helps define your brand. In addition to the time factor, another great reason to hire a PR agency for your startup is to get an unbiased yet knowledgeable perspective on how to best position your startup to the press.

“As an entrepreneur, you get so close to your ‘baby’ that it can be difficult to take a step back and determine the best way to describe your startup to the media,” says Sanders.  

A PR professional is constantly communicating with a variety of media outlets, journalists and bloggers and they have a keen sense of what certain outlets and reporters respond to best and what they would find interesting about your startup.

Garners attention from investors. As you can probably tell, we’re no stranger to working with startups. We’ve had more than one client catch the eye of venture capitalists through media coverage that we have secured for them on sites like Venture Beat, Tech Crunch, WIRED.com and Mashable. After all, the best way to get noticed by top investors is to get out there and make some noise.

Dittoe PR is Definitely the Place for Me!

I can honestly say that after only being at Dittoe PR for a few weeks, I have learned more from the incredibly bright PR people here than in any class or internship setting. The work atmosphere and PR knowledge at Dittoe is refreshing. Employees work around the clock to show clients and the industry that we are truly leaders in the PR realm. Everyone’s willingness to help one another to gain the greatest outcomes for clients is truly admirable. I am confident my strengths in traditional and social PR tactics will be put to good use here at Dittoe, even if my journey to get here took a little longer than expected…

Two weeks after graduating from Indiana University, I moved to Dallas, Tex., to take on a public relations internship with a top-tier PR firm. Keep in mind, I’m a born-and-raised Midwestern gal who went to college in her hometown, so moving to Dallas was a great way to experience being on my own, grow in myself and learn to love a new city. Leaving my family and comfort zone was an incredibly tearful time, but I am proud of myself for taking on a new city in which I had never even visited, in addition to only knowing one person. Living by myself in an artsy district of Dallas varied drastically from living in a sorority house with 120 girls on IU’s campus.

I welcomed the new atmosphere, and my internship pushed me to delve deeper into PR tactics and required me to learn the ropes and better myself as a PR guru in hopes of landing a full-time position in the future. Upon moving home from Dallas, I had hopes of landing a job in Chicago to join friends and family already living in the city. I wanted to utilize my journalism and communication degrees, and I knew had a lot to offer a firm. My job search was somewhat discouraging until I decided to reach out to Dittoe PR in Indianapolis. Their reputation for strong media relations and social media skills was something I was looking for in a firm. Little did I know that the DPR team consists of people with sharp PR backgrounds and Indiana hospitality.

One thing led to another and here I am as Dittoe’s newest team member. I am positive I will continue to grow in my creativity, writing capabilities, teamwork skills and independence as a young PR professional. I love PR because it allows me to be an outgoing, positive advocate for someone or something. I pride myself on always having a smile on my face and letting my light shine in any environment!

My faith and persistence led me to this incredible role at Dittoe and I know it will be full of challenges and thrills. Although I’ll never get back those special moments at home, I’m now more thankful than ever that I was able to have cherished time with my family while waiting out for the best job opportunity here at Dittoe PR. I know this is where I’m supposed to be!

Advancing in an Agency

Most of us at Dittoe PR know that a good portion of our blog traffic comes from students and recent grads interested in a future position at either our firm or a public relations firm like ours. We know that and we like it, because, well, we’re great at what we do.

You may remember me from my previous post about my role as an intern at Dittoe PR. Recently, I have been promoted to Junior Account Executive. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Based on things that I have learned, I have created some guidelines for current interns on how to move up in the agency world.

  1. Communicate. With your supervisors, other interns, heck, even the FedEx guy. While it is sometimes important to voice your opinion, it is even more important to know what is being asked of you. That leads me to my next tip…
  2. Ask questions. I think I ask more questions now than I ever did as an intern, but that’s okay. It allows me to gain a better understanding of what we are doing to help our clients.
  3. Come prepared.  Take a pen and notebook to every meeting that you attend. The meeting may not seem relevant to you at the time, but a senior member may be relying on you to take great notes – so pay attention!
  4. Expect long hours. The PR industry is not a strictly 9 to 5 job.  Sometimes you will have to take your work home with you.
  5. Be flexible. Be ready to move your schedule around based on the client’s needs. Some days that might mean breakfast, lunch and dinner at your desk, but it really shows your commitment to your client and your team.
  6. Take the initiative. Show your supervisors that you are ready to take on more by always going one step further than what is asked of you.
  7. Don’t be afraid to show your personality.  While it is important to keep your head down and focus on your work, don’t be afraid to show your co-workers that you’re clever, fun and smart, too!

You aren’t guaranteed a job just by following these guidelines, but they will help you make a great impression.  If your internship doesn’t turn into the job of your dreams, don’t panic. But, if it does – you can thank me later!